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Havel Does NYC


Ex-president (some still call him "President") Havel has had a busy fall during a residency at Columbia University in NYC. Despite considering himself not a "household name," he's had a warm reception in the city. Julie Bosman writes in the NYTimes Online:
He has taken in the buzzy social life of New York, attending Broadway shows and cocktail parties, reluctantly declining invitations once his calendar was stretched to the limit. "I discovered that Americans don’t take it personally," he said, sipping white wine during a recent interview on the Columbia campus. (Czechs do.)

Three cheers for American pragmatism. I can't say that, back home, I'll miss those hidebound social relations either.

Bosman's article brought up other interesting points, too.

Though he initially supported the US invasion of Iraq, it seems that Havel has (like so many) become a sceptic. In his most recent book, published this year in Czech ("Briefly, please"), he called the Iraq situation a "fiasco." He was thought to be in good graces with the Bush administration (Havel received a Medal of Freedom in 2003), but he is evasive about his current opinion of Bush. "I will just say that you have the president that you elected," he said, though it doesn't take much to figure out what he means by that.

"I myself am not a naïve utopian or a dreamer," said Havel. As far as European politics are concerned, he sees growing eastern European nationalisms as a concern and thinks that Turkey should be admitted to the EU. And he rightly discourages Christian fearmongering about Islam: "It [Christianity] has its own tradition of fundamentalism and a certain kind of terrorism," he said. "It has its rather great, terrible historical examples of liquidating other civilizations."


Radio Prague also featured Havel's New York visit, which is scheduled to end this week with a celebration of Havel's 70th birthday. And Luboš previously commented on Havel's visit and Columbia.

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